Includes bibliographical references (p. 197-207) and index
"In recent decades, an enormous gulf has opened up between academic critics addressing their professional colleagues, often in abstruse or technical terms, and the kind of public critic who writes about books, films, plays, music, and art for a wider audience. How did this breach develop between specialists and generalists, between theorists and practical critics, between humanists and antihumanists? What, if anything, can he done to repair it? Can criticism once again become part of a common culture, meaningful to scholars and general readers alike?" "Morris Dickstein's new book, Double Agent, makes an impassioned plea for criticism to move beyond the limits of poststructuralist theory, eccentric scholarship, blinkered formalism, opaque jargon, and politically motivated cultural studies. Emphasizing the relation of critics to the larger world of history and society, Dickstein takes a fresh look at the long tradition of cultural criticism associated with the independent "man of letters," and traces the development of new techniques of close reading in the aftermath of modernism. He examines the work of critics who reached out to a larger public in essays and books that were themselves contributions to literature, including Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater, H. L. Mencken, I. A. Richards, Van Wyck Brooks, Constance Rourke, Lewis Mumford, R. P. Blackmur, Edmund Wilson, Philip Rahv, Lionel Trilling, F. W. Dupee, Alfred Kazin, and George Orwell. This, he argues, is a major intellectual tradition that strikes a delicate balance between social ideas and literary values, between politics and aesthetics. Though marginalized or ignored by academic histories of criticism, it remains highly relevant to current debates about literature, culture, and the university. Dickstein concludes the book with a lively and contentious dialogue on the state of criticism today."
"In Double Agent, one of our leading critics offers both a perceptive look at the great public critics of the last hundred years and a deeply felt critique of criticism today. Anyone with an interest in literature, criticism, or culture will want to read this thoughtful and provocative work."--BOOK JACKET
1. Introduction: What Happened to Criticism -- 2. Cultural Criticism: Matthew Arnold and Beyond -- 3. The Rise and Fall of "Practical" Criticism: From I. A. Richards to Barthes and Derrida -- 4. Journalism as Criticism -- 5. Criticism Among the Intellectuals: Partial Portraits. Lionel Trilling and The Liberal Imagination. R. P. Blackmur: The Last Book. The Critic as Sage: Northrop Frye. Up from Alienation: The New York Intellectuals. A Precious Anomaly: F. W. Dupee. Alfred Kazin's America -- 6. The Critic and Society, 1900-1950: The Counter Tradition. Criticism: The Transformation. The Generation of 1910. The Attack on the Gilded Age: Van Wyck Brooks and H. L. Mencken. The Critic as Man of Letters: Edmund Wilson and Malcolm Cowley. The Rise of American Studies. Trilling as a Cultural Critic. Kazin, Rahv, and Partisan Review. Orwell: Politics, Criticism, and Popular Culture. Conclusion: England and America -- 7. The Return to History? A Dialogue on Criticism Today